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New epilepsy gene found
A new gene linked to epilepsy has been identified which could potentially provide new treatment options to prevent epileptic seizures say neuroscientists from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).
Published in Nature Medicine, the research focused on a new class of gene called ‘microRNA’ which controls protein production inside cells. Scientists at the RCSI looked in detail at one particular microRNA called ‘microRNA-134’ and found that levels of microRNA-134 are much higher in the part of the brain that causes seizures in patients with epilepsy.
By using a new type of drug-like molecule called an antagomir which locks onto the microRNA-134 and removes it from the brain cell, the researchers found they could prevent epileptic seizures from happening.
Professor David Henshall, a senior author of the paper, who works in the department of physiology and medical physics at the RCSI said: ‘We have been looking to find what goes wrong inside brain cells to trigger epilepsy. Our research has discovered a completely new gene linked to epilepsy and it shows how we can target this gene using drug-like molecules to reduce the brain's susceptibility to seizures and the frequency in which they occur.'
His colleague Dr Eva Jimenez-Mateos, the lead author of the paper, said the research found that the antagomir drug protects the brain cells from the effects of prolonged seizures and the effects of the treatment could last up to one month.
The scientists say their study could potentially offer new treatment methods for patients.
New treatments for epilepsy
Epilepsy Society’s lead geneticist Professor Sanjay Sisodiya, commented: ‘Currently available treatments fail to control seizures in about one in three people who have epilepsy. Recurrent seizures can cause many problems for this large number of people, about 150,000 people in the UK alone.
‘We need new ways to treat epilepsy when our current methods fail. This exciting work from Professor David Henshall and his colleagues in Ireland sheds more light on an area of much current interest in epilepsy, looking at the control of genes in epilepsy.
‘If the right control switches can be found and altered using newly-developed treatments, it may be possible to control seizures better. As with all science, the findings need to be independently repeated, and then new drugs may need to be found. It will also be important to work out much earlier than is possible at the moment who might need such new treatments.’